“I Wanna Be Down” by Brandy is one of 90s R&B’s most astounding moments. Norwood’s debut single from her Brandy album released in 1994, reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks at the top of Billboard Hot R&B Singles.
One year later, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Yo-Yo jumped on a hip-hop remix of the successful song. No surprise then, that “I Wanna Be Down” continues to inspire young artists more than twenty years after its release, and GNA is one of them.
“There’s no specific reason why I chose to do this song. I was looking for one I could cover and when it came up on a playlist I was going through I decided to go with it. Brandy is one of my favourite voices in music. What I love about her most is her smooth low tone”, says the Canadian songstress about the glossy cover of “I Wanna Be Down”, she released at the beginning of this year. In the middle of her version of the track she flawlessly raps Queen Latifah’s verses from the mentioned remix.
Straight from Toronto, GNA started her career very early, and she would eventually star in the Broadway musical The Lion King as young Nala. Theatre, independent films, commercials and even ad campaigns – there’s no industry work she couldn’t do.
Everything became much clearer with her music journey when she started working with popular Toronto producer T-Nyce, who has worked with the likes of Tory Lanez, Kid Ink, YG, and many more. “A lot of the Toronto sound I would say comes from the fact that we’re so diverse in culture. So that’s where we get the Caribbean and Afro sound”, says GNA when asked about her hometown influences.
Is she #TeamDrake or #ToryLanez then? “My answer is The Weeknd! Nah, but seriously not going to pick as I feel they’re both great in their own right”. She also adds: “I’ve recently had the Afrobeats Hits playlist on repeat for inspiration”.
At the beginning of her career, the Toronto singer was known as Gina Lee. She released some songs online under that name, but it wasn’t anything serious. “I was at a point in my life and music career where I was making a bit of a shift and reset. I felt like a name change reflected that”, she talks about changing her nickname and whole image.
The first thing you could see that changed is her style. GNA just simply loves 90s fashion, as you could notice in her flawless “I Wanna Be Down” music video. Who helps her with the old school outfits? “I get that a lot. And believe it or not, it’s not on purpose. But it’s a mixture, sometimes I dress myself but I do have a stylist. Benji, she’s amazing”.
After her cover release, she finally came out with her first solo single and music video. “It’s all about women knowing their worth and what they want and deserve from a man and refusing to settle for any less”, she comments on the sweet track titled “Love Me“, produced by T-Nyce, Seth Dyer and Josh Francois. A few days ago, she shared with world another joint called “No Hook“.
But there’s definitely more to show. “My EP ‘The Score’ is set to be released on June 2018 and up until then, I plan to release two more singles and possibly some more covers of some of my favourite songs from the 90s, seeing as though the Brandy cover I put out was received so well”, she says of her future plans.
At the end of the interview, GNA reminisces on her favourite moment of her music journey so far: “A recent favourite moment was actually the other day when I was performing in TX for SXSW and was approached by a fan from Instagram who came specifically to watch me perform. That was a first! And felt amazing!”.
Words by Julia Borowczyk